The advent of the digital age has been described by some as the 3rd industrial revolution. Its effects are believed to be as far-reaching as those brought about by the introduction of electricity in the 19th century. The digital age has given rise to dramatically opposing views, between the "wonderful" world of the collaborative or sharing economy and the fear of a world without work, or at best, of crowd workers — mechanical Turks — or smart factories. Its impacts are widespread and the full extent of the consequences for the economy, society, and humans remains unknown. It is expected to bring about drastic changes in society, our way of life, and privacy. In particular, the digital transformation has surreptitiously broken down (fragmented) companies' traditional business and employment models. Two main developments are responsible for changing employment relationships: the collaborative or sharing economy on the one hand and robotisation and artificial intelligence on the other. Our research project will focus solely on the first process.
Our project aims to study the simultaneous development of forms of work, company organisations, and market regulations in the most disrupted industries. Technological advances have given rise to new forms of work and business models, but the viability of these transformations is subject to the law and to the institutions that regulate labour and the disrupted industries. Our project will therefore: study the effects of this new economy on employment and forms of work; examine competitive dynamics and develop business model typologies for companies involved in the selected sectors; assess transformations in labour and market regulations; and analyse potential responses and courses of action for economic and social stakeholders in light of these questions. The French government has only recently taken up this issue . Over a two-year period, no fewer than seven reports have been submitted by various authorities. The reports all underscore the necessity — or indeed, the urgency — of enlisting the support of researchers, especially in the fields of Social Sciences and Humanities. Among the most notable of these is the Mettling report submitted in September 2015.
Although the forms of work resulting from the platform economy may not be entirely new, they have created fears, overturned industrial relations systems, and therefore require appropriate forms of regulation. As a result, they raise questions for public authorities about the protection of workers' rights and regulatory methods for the affected sectors of the economy. The goal of this project is twofold. First of all, it aims to present knowledge based on field observations, in order to establish a detailed analysis of the situations observed and their magnitude across a region such as Nouvelle Aquitaine. Secondly, the project sets out to compare and contrast local observations with analyses carried out in foreign countries. Furthermore, the project's empirical studies will contribute to discussions about the appropriate type and level of regulation. Given the fact that we can assume a set of shared characteristics for all the countries selected for the study, the project is likely to provide scenarios for regulation on a European level, while taking account of national social protection systems. One of the project's most important and unique assets is its multidisciplinary approach, which brings together economic, sociological and legal resources in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region and serves as a preliminary model for organizing research on the digital economy. In addition, the project, with its multidisciplinary and organizational nature, strives to ultimately develop a shared analytical framework for questions concerning work and the organisation of production for sociologists, economists and legal experts.